When Murray Cameron began playing his guitar, a woman walking by stopped and did a double-take.
“I know this song,” she said, amazed.
“It’s a Chinese song.
Then Cameron started singing, in Mandarin, and the delighted woman began to sing with him.
He was busking on a Fort Langley sidewalk at the time, and as he continued to play and sing, more and more people, all apparently Mandarin speakers, emerged from the crowd to watch.
Later, he would explain he was playing a very popular tune, which roughly translated, has a title of “the moon represents my heart.”
He learned it from some of his Mandarin-speaking students, who have been teaching him their language while he works as a volunteer English tutor at the Langley Church of Latter-Day Saints.
“I have a goal to speak Mandarin,” he told the Langley Advance Times.
He said his musical background helps him learn the language because the meaning of words in Mandarin are very dependant on their tone for meaning.
“Being a musician, I understand tones.”
Cameron, a 71-year-old retired music teacher, estimates he’s been busking for about 20 years now.
He started before he retired, less for the money, which he usually donates to local food banks, than for the opportunity to perform.
“It’s meeting people and talking to people [that’s the appeal],” Cameron said.
He wants to see others doing the same.
“I would like to see more street performers in Langley, because people like it.”
Usually, he plays the violin, even though he feels he is better on the guitar, because audiences seem to enjoy it more.
“I think it’s maybe because they know it’s [the violin] a difficult instrument [to play],” he guessed.
He can also play classical and acoustic guitar, but not when he’s on the street.
Cameron always asks permission from a business before he begins playing out front.
He’s only been refused once in 20 years, by a business he won’t identify, except to say “it wasn’t in Langley. “
“They told they would have to give permission to other people [to play] if they did,” he said.
“They were as polite as you could be when you tell someone they’re not wanted,” he laughed.
His favourite busking songs to perform are from the Eagles, including Lying Eyes, Hotel California and Desperado, as well as a variety of old-time country tunes.
He plays the German standard Edelweiss as an instrumental, even though he speaks some German, a language he picked up when he went over to play for a hockey club in the European country many years ago, a gig that he said lasted “about six weeks.”
Hockey and music were two passions growing up for Cameron, who taught the sport a while but eventually chose music.
He’s combined the two by writing and recording several hockey-oriented songs, that he has posted online as “Bobby Orbison.”
“If you do a search on YouTube, you’ll probably find them,” he said.